The Australian Ballet’s Swan Lake: good versus evil in the enchanted forest
Baynes and McAllister join forces for this spellbinding 50th anniversary production
It was the first ballet ever danced by The Australian Ballet on 2 November 1962 at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Sydney; a graceful flurry of artists took to the stage to announce a new era in Australian dance. Fifty years on, a new, traditional Swan Lake enters the repertoire to take its place in the company’s history.
Created by Resident Choreographer Stephen Baynes in collaboration with Artistic Director David McAllister, Swan Lake premieres on 18 September 2012 at Arts Centre Melbourne. The production will then travel to Sydney from 30 November at the Sydney Opera House.
A flawed Prince, a beautiful woman under an otherworldly spell, an evil sorcerer and a seductive black swan are at the centre of this classical production. With its mythical storyline, delicate corps of swans and doomed love at its heart, Swan Lake is an ageless ballet that has enchanted audiences for over a century.
The Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, David McAllister, said this work was a defining one for the company.
“Swan Lake is the quintessential ballet, and as our first-ever production, it’s an important piece of both our history and our future. Our 50th anniversary is the perfect time to unveil a traditional version as a complement to the Graeme Murphy ballet commissioned for our 40th anniversary,” explains McAllister.
“Stephen Baynes has a lyrical touch and an unparalleled sense of musical phrasing that is both accessible and complex. It’s a thrill to watch him create a Swan Lake that will live on for the next 50 years.”
Swan Lake made its debut in Moscow in 1877and is one of the world’s most performed ballets. This will be the fourth interpretation to enter The Australian Ballet’s repertoire. In its various incantations, Swan Lake has been performed by the company an impressive 526 times – a number beaten only by performances of Giselle.
This is the 20th work that Baynes has created for The Australian Ballet, and his third full-length ballet. He studied at The Australian Ballet School before joining the company in 1976. Baynes first experimented with movement in 1986 by creating Strauss Songs, a piece that won an Australian Ballet choreographic competition.
Baynes was praised by The ustralian in 2011 as a choreographer who can “create complementary balletic architectures of poise, articulation and fluidity”. His treatment of Swan Lake will be a reverential reimagining, with respect to the tradition and techniques of classical ballet.
Celebrated costume and set designer Hugh Colman, who has created costumes for more than a dozen of the company’s ballets, continues his long association with The Australian Ballet. Most anticipated will be his designs for the famous white swan and black swan characters: both will be heavily embellished affairs, with the classic tulle tutu the centrepiece.
An integral piece of Swan Lake is Tchaikovsky’s score, one of classical ballet’s most recognisable pieces of music. Commissioned in 1875, it reportedly took the Russian composer one year to complete. His gift for melody enabled him to author some of history’s most iconic ballet scores, such as The Nutcracker and The Sleeping Beauty.
The story of Swan Lake
Princess Odette, transformed into a swan by the evil von Rothbart, is able to regain her human form only at night. This cruel spell can only be broken by a vow of eternal love and fidelity. Lonely and disconsolate Prince Siegfried encounters Odette by a lake and swears his love for her. The following evening a ball is held to celebrate Prince Siegfried’s coming of age. Von Rothbart appears with the beguiling Odile. Captivated, Siegfried is seduced by Odile, thereby breaking his vow and condemning Odette and her fellow maidens to remain swans for eternity. Siegfried flees to the lake to beg forgiveness from Odette but it is too late. As she transforms into a swan for the last time the Prince, bereft at the loss of his beautiful swan princess, drowns himself in the lake.
Every ballet lover has a favourite Swan Lake memory; create a new one with The Australian Ballet’s magical 50th anniversary production.
Celebrating 50 years of The Australian Ballet
The Australian Ballet’s 50th anniversary is a milestone all Australians can be proud of. Presenting up to 180 performances and over 500 education events each year, the company is one of the world’s most prolific and progressive arts organisations in the world. In 2012, The Australian Ballet will reach many corners of Australia through extensive national and regional touring, and by visiting more schools nationwide with the popular Out There program.
Choreography Stephen Baynes
Creative associate David McAllister
Music Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Costume and set design Hugh Colman
Assisted by Lexi George*
Lighting design Rachel Burke
*This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body
18 – 29 September (14 performances)
Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre
with Orchestra Victoria
30 November – 19 December
Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House
with Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra
Online via The Australian Ballet’s website or 1300 369 741